56 Pirrama Rd Pyrmont, NSW 2009
|Opening hours||Wed-Thu 6:30–10:30pm, Fri-Sun 12 Noon–4pm, 6:30–10:30pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Licensed, Views, Breakfast-brunch, Degustation, Romance-first date, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access, Bar, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9571 1999|
Thirty-two, 20, 30, 20, 34. Add up the ages of the core kitchen team at Pyrmont's impressive new modern Italian, and you reach a grand total of 136. Average age, 27.2. On the floor, there's nobody over 30. That's par for the course these days, but still, there's something special going on in this glowing, glass-walled lightbox perched on the waters of Pyrmont Bay next to Sydney Wharf.
Because these aren't young amateurs, they're young professionals. At 34, Federico Zanellato is the driving force behind LuMi, a joint venture with the Drakopoulos family of Sydney Restaurant Group. Zanellato spent time at Copenhagen's Noma and Melbourne's Attica before head-cheffing at Ormeggio at the Spit for Alessandro Pavoni, so it's no surprise LuMi is the picture of this-very-minute dining. That means a completely on-view kitchen; chefs delivering food to the bare and beautiful Danish-inspired wooden tables; glass terrariums that bring nature indoors; and roughly textured earthenware pottery instead of white porcelain. Cocktails play with freshly pressed celery juice and rhubarb, and the eight-course degustation menu flows like a tidal wave of global flavour notes: smoke, vinegar, miso, pistachio, fennel pollen, puffed grains.
Yet it's not at all what I'm expecting, as in the usual tiny swabs of flagrantly high-status ingredients. Instead, there's an adorably soft square of potato focaccia and a buttery, cheddary sable biscuit topped with sweetly pickled peppers and smoky macadamia. There's umami in the delicate mushrooms and porcini powder on a little "chawanmushi" of steamed parmesan custard. There's a loudish, please-like-me playlist of Arcade Fire and Angus Stone, and a Japanese bowl of what looks like freshly fallen snow. It's not. It's chunks of fresh crab meat mixed with silky artichoke, oyster powder and puffed sushi rice; all richness and restraint.
And, oh, pasta. Small coins of spelt ravioli ooze pumpkin puree, their skins so fine they virtually melt on contact with the burnt butter, toasted pumpkin seeds and tongues of sea urchin. I don't even want to swallow it, just keep it in my mouth. Next, a tangle of swamp-green, stinging nettle pasta studded with crisp pork like Rome's "alla gricia", again hit with an almost carnal sea-sweetness in the form of a lush mussel emulsion. In spite of itself, it tastes so, so Italian.
There aren't too many bargains on the otherwise rewarding 40-strong wine list, put together by Zanellato's sommelier wife, Michela, although a racy, juicy 2012 Brangero Dolcetto punches above its $60 weight.
Next, marinated bonito is mirrored with almost jelly-like eggplant in a dish that I find clever more than compelling; and after that, a log of absurdly soft and gelatinous slow-cooked pork jowl (hear the howl of the zeitgeist) laminated with crunchy buckwheat, alongside pickled pear, celeriac puree and purple kale.
Then, like the arrival of spring, "evergreen" delivers a physic garden's worth of flavour landscaping, from sorrel sorbet and lemon basil granita, to minty green meringue kisses and green shiso jelly. It almost steals the thunder of dessert proper – a smooth-talking milk ice with a satiny sabayon, milk crumble, sour cherries and splodge of salted caramel.
LuMi is so going to be the hot date restaurant this summer. Elegance, grace, delicacy; all there. Polish, refinement, technique; all there. Skateboard, leaning up against the kitchen wall, there, too.
The wine service isn't yet as simpatico as the food service, and you could cut the eight courses to six without killing anyone; but this thoughtful and provocative new harbourside destination is something out of the box. Honestly, kids today.
Best bit: Every dish smells beautiful.
Worst bit: By-the-glass pours are less than by-the-bottle.
Go-to dish: Evergreen (sorrel, lemon basil, mint, shiso, parsley).
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.